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There are several different cartilage problems that may affect those who play contact sports, or those who have a chronic condition such as arthritis. Most cartilage problems occur due to injury, and can be easily remedied. Very severe injuries may lead to prolonged problems, but some function of the cartilage may be restored with physical therapy and sometimes surgery.
Different cartilage problems resulting from injury are generally caused by either tearing of the cartilage, or of the cartilage being pulled or stretched beyond its capacity. Pulled cartilage often occurs during a sprain, and usually heals on its own if given enough time to rest. Torn cartilage often heals completely as well, but in severe cases surgery may be needed to repair the torn area. Physical therapy may or may not be needed after an operation to help the joint regain mobility.
Chronic conditions like arthritis do not heal on their own, and most often will continue to worsen as time goes by. Arthritis is caused by an auto-immune response that causes the cartilage to break down around joints. Most commonly, symptoms include stiffness and pain, usually at the joint site. Pain most often begins in the fingers, wrists, or knees and can progress into most any joint of the body.
Treatments for arthritis include taking medication for pain, and using heating pads, massage, or physical therapy to help with stiffness. Taking a vitamin D supplement along with calcium may also help to strengthen the bones and help prevent long-term bone damage. Although cartilage does not generally restore itself very easily once it has been destroyed, some arthritis sufferers may be able to keep their condition from getting worse by exercising and eating a healthy diet.
Although different cartilage problems have different solutions, there are a few general rules that patients should follow when their joints have been injured or damaged. Pressure should be kept off the area as much as possible to allow proper healing. Most chronically painful injuries become so because the patient tried using the joint too soon. When possible, patients should also avoid the activity which caused injury in the first place.
When injury is too severe for a full recovery to be possible, pain management is usually successful at alleviating symptoms. This can include over the counter or prescription medications, as well as physical therapy and exercise. Patients should ask their doctors which types of exercises are best for each particular injury in order to avoid causing further damage to the joint.